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Civilization VI review: Learning from some (but not all) of history's mistakes

Hayden Dingman | Oct. 26, 2016
Click softly, but carry a big stick.

And as I said, it makes the map just a bit more interesting. Where once there were empty hexes or generic Builder improvements, now cities sprawl across the map.

Some failings, though: 1) The build restriction means it’s easy to back yourself into a corner. The Aerodrome, for instance, is a late-game district that allows you to build aircraft. But if you’ve built the maximum number of districts in all your cities and you’re 50+ turns away from the requisite population growth? No aircraft for you. Not unless you settle another city or conquer one with a spare slot.

Civilization VI

Which leads into another issue: You can’t remove a district, once placed. Say you built a Campus early in the game but later you realize you’ve used up the only hex which could support a certain Wonder or another, more important district—well, too bad. That Campus is there to stay, a permanent reminder of your failure to plan ahead.

It’s a weird choice, considering districts are just generic buildings. If a player wants to (or needs to) demolish and then rebuild 30 turns of work, it seems like that should be allowed.

Then there are Wonders. These extraordinary works of engineering have always been a high-risk/high-reward investment, but with each now taking up valuable real estate in addition to an ungodly number of turns, the stakes might be a bit too high. I found myself loathe to build most Wonders, particularly since their benefits aren’t typically worth the work. A shame, since with the return of Civ IV’s “How-It’s-Built” cutscenes for each completed Wonder the presentation is the best it’s been in years.

Moving on to Active Research: Basically, by completing certain actions you can “Boost” your knowledge of scientific or cultural pursuits, effectively cutting your research time in half. Building three adjacent farms might bring you closer to finishing off Feudalism for instance, or an Oil Well could get you closer to mastering Plastics.

Civilization VI

These tasks interplay across both research trees—the traditional Technology Tree and a new one for governments known as the Civics Tree—and allow you to ping-pong your way up with some amount of skill. I like it! It makes Civ VI feel more than ever like a story of actual human achievement, with menial actions (like owning six military units) dovetailing right into new pursuits.

But it all goes wrong towards the end. Both the Tech Tree and Civics Tree peter out in the late-game, railroading you down just a few research strands and with boring and uninspired units/buildings filling each new milestone. It’s like the game’s signaling to you “Okay, we’re almost done here. Let’s wrap this up.” Worse, a few of the late-game techs don’t even have an Active Research side-quest at all, seemingly tied to nothing in human history.

 

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